NASA's Heliophysics Gallery

The Sun is a major influence on Earth's weather and climate. The focus of NASA's Sun-Solar System Connection is to understand this relationship from the perspective of the entire system.

You can find out more by visiting the Heliophysics Page, the NASA Living with a Star program, and the Solar-Terrestrial Probe web site.

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Recent Releases

Check out the latest media we have released relating to the Sun. Want to see more? View our full listing of Sun-related material.
  • The Heliophysics Big Year
    2022.06.14
    The Heliophysics Big Year is a global celebration of solar science and the Sun’s influence on Earth and the entire solar system. During the Heliophysics Big Year, you will have the opportunity to participate in many solar science events such as watching solar eclipses, experiencing an aurora, participating in citizen science projects, and other fun Sun-related activities. Join us from October 2023 to December 2024! go.nasa.gov/HelioBigYear
  • Australia Sounding Rocket Campaign Press Kit
    2022.06.07
    NASA will launch three suborbital sounding rockets in June and July 2022 from the Arnhem Space Center in Australia’s Northern Territory to conduct astrophysics studies that can only be done from the Southern Hemisphere. The three missions will focus on α Centauri A and B, two of the three-star α Centauri system that are the closest stars to our Sun, and X-rays emanating from the interstellar medium, clouds of gases and particles between stars. The three sounding rocket night-time missions will be launched between June 26 and July 12 on two-stage Black Brant IX sounding rockets, from the Arnhem Space Center, which is owned and operated by Equatorial Launch Australia or ELA. The Arnhem Space Center is a commercial space launch facility, located on the Dhupuma Plateau near Nhulunbuy. The NASA missions will be the first launches from Arnhem. Learn more: Australia Sounding Rocket Fact Sheet Watch more: Sounding Rockets: Cutting Edge Science, 15 Minutes at a Time What Is a Sounding Rocket? Riding Along with a NASA Sounding Rocket
  • Sun Produces Sparkling Flare on May 19, 2022
    2022.05.26
    On May 19, 2022 the Sun emitted a magnitude M5.6 flare that peaked at 3:19 EDT. This flare was unusual in that it was not a single, bright burst from one location, but a series of smaller flashes from all over a bright active region. The Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the event in extreme ultraviolet light which reveals the delicate structure of the Sun's lower atmosphere, called the corona. The sparkling flares are followed by brilliant loops of hot plasma, which "sticks" to the Sun's magnetic fields.
  • Sun Emits X1.5 Flare on May 10, 2022
    2022.05.21
    The Sun emitted a strong solar flare on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, peaking at 9:55 a.m. EDT. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the Sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of energy. Flares and solar eruptions can impact radio communications, electric power grids, navigation signals, and pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts. This flare is classified as an X-class flare. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. To see how such space weather may affect Earth, please visit NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center https://spaceweather.gov/, the U.S. government’s official source for space weather forecasts, watches, warnings, and alerts. NASA works as a research arm of the nation’s space weather effort. NASA observes the Sun and our space environment constantly with a fleet of spacecraft that study everything from the Sun’s activity to the solar atmosphere, and to the particles and magnetic fields in the space surrounding Earth.
  • Active Sun in Early May, 2022
    2022.05.06
    Solar flares are powerful bursts of energy. Flares and solar eruptions can impact radio communications, electric power grids, navigation signals, and pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts. This flare is classified as an X-class flare. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. More info on how flares are classified can be found here. To see how such space weather may affect Earth, please visit NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center https://spaceweather.gov/, the U.S. government’s official source for space weather forecasts, watches, warnings, and alerts. NASA works as a research arm of the nation’s space weather effort. NASA observes the Sun and our space environment constantly with a fleet of spacecraft that study everything from the Sun’s activity to the solar atmosphere, and to the particles and magnetic fields in the space surrounding Earth.
  • Strong Solar Flare Erupts from Sun on April 30, 2022
    2022.05.02
    The Sun emitted a strong solar flare on April 30, 2022, peaking at 9:47 a.m. EDT. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the Sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of energy. Flares and solar eruptions can impact radio communications, electric power grids, navigation signals, and pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts. This flare is classified as an X-class flare. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. More info on how flares are classified can be found here. To see how such space weather may affect Earth, please visit NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center https://spaceweather.gov/, the U.S. government’s official source for space weather forecasts, watches, warnings, and alerts. NASA works as a research arm of the nation’s space weather effort. NASA observes the Sun and our space environment constantly with a fleet of spacecraft that study everything from the Sun’s activity to the solar atmosphere, and to the particles and magnetic fields in the space surrounding Earth.
  • Fast Magnetic Reconnection and the Hall Effect
    2022.04.28
    Magnetic reconnection is one of the most complex processes known for converting energy from magnetic fields to particle motion. It takes place in solar flares and regions of planetary (and stellar) magnetospheres. Having been studied since the 1950s, many details of the process are still undergoing study. One of the key components in magnetic reconnection is the collision of two magnetic field regions with opposite-directed field lines, imbedded in a plasma. The field and plasma combination forms an X-shaped configuration at their closest, and most intense point. These visualizations are plotted from a reconnection model generated by VPIC (Vector Particle-In-Cell) code. Quantities are plotted in 'dimensionless' coordinates, that are normalized to the ion inertial length (di). The magnetic vector potential is represented by the blue-green curves which dip inward from the top and sides of the plot. This forms the 'X' region that confines the electric current (gold) which is directed out of the plane of the plot (towards the viewer). The Electron Diffusion Region (EDR) is the intense horizontal oblong blob near the center of the plot. Electrons and ions (plasma) flow into the region from the top and bottom of the plot, initially moving together. As the plasma moves into regions with less intense magnetic field and stronger electric current, the ion and electron trajectories begin to diverge, driven by the Hall effect (Wikipedia). This accelerates and channels the flow of particles outward, through the left and right wings of the 'X', where the magnetic energy density is lowest. The net process is magnetic energy is converted into particle energy. The incoming magnetic energy is diverted and transported to the downstream region leaving an energy void at the X-line.
  • Late April Flares
    2022.04.22
    The Sun emitted a moderate solar flare on April 20, 2022, peaking at 9:59 p.m. ET. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the Sun constantly, captured an image of the event. This flare is classified as an M 9.6 flare. M-class flares are a tenth the size of the most intense flares, the X-class flares. The number provides more information about its strength. More info on how flares are classified can be found here.
    April 19, M 7.3 and X 2.2
    The Sun emitted two solar flares on April 19, 2022, one moderate peaking at 9:35 p.m. EST and one strong peaking at 11:57 p.m. EST. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the Sun constantly, captured an image of both events.
  • Concert videos
    2022.04.06
    These videos are designed to accompany live orchestral performances. For more information and inquiries about their use, please contact Scott Wiessinger at scott.wiessinger@nasa.gov.
  • Mid-level Solar Flare Erupts from Sun on March 31, 2022
    2022.04.01
    The Sun emitted a mid-level solar flare on March 31, 2022, peaking at 2:35 p.m. EDT. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the Sun constantly, captured imagery of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of energy. Flares and solar eruptions can impact radio communications, electric power grids, navigation signals, and pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts. This flare is classified as an M-Class flare. M-class flares are a tenth the size of the most intense flares, the X-class flares. The number provides more information about its strength. An M2 is twice as intense as an M1, an M3 is three times as intense, etc. More info on how flares are classified can be found here. To see how such space weather may affect Earth, please visit NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center https://spaceweather.gov/, the U.S. government’s official source for space weather forecasts, watches, warnings, and alerts. NASA works as a research arm of the nation’s space weather effort. NASA observes the Sun and our space environment constantly with a fleet of spacecraft that study everything from the Sun’s activity to the solar atmosphere, and to the particles and magnetic fields in the space surrounding Earth.
  • SDO Video Toolkit
    2022.04.01
    These clips are elements from various solar videos produced by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Use them to create your own artistic video with the Sun as its theme. These shots are all 1920x1080, but they originate from imagery collected by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO.) All of that is 4,096 x 4,096 pixels in size and shows the full solar disk. This source material is linked to in the description of each shot.
  • Significant Solar Flare Erupts From Sun on March 30, 2022
    2022.03.30
    The Sun emitted a significant solar flare on March 30, 2022, peaking at 1:35 p.m. EST. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the Sun constantly, captured imagery of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of energy. Flares and solar eruptions can impact radio communications, electric power grids, navigation signals, and pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts. This flare is classified as an X-Class flare. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc. More info on how flares are classified can be found here. To see how such space weather may affect Earth, please visit NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center https://spaceweather.gov/, the U.S. government’s official source for space weather forecasts, watches, warnings, and alerts. NASA works as a research arm of the nation’s space weather effort. NASA observes the Sun and our space environment constantly with a fleet of spacecraft that study everything from the Sun’s activity to the solar atmosphere, and to the particles and magnetic fields in the space surrounding Earth.

Missions - Operational

  • Heliophysics Fleet Visualizations
    List
    Visualizations of the fleet of NASA's Heliophysics missions as it changes over the years from 2012 to the present.
  • Solar Orbiter
    Gallery
    As the main driver of space weather, it is essential to understand the behavior of the Sun to learn how to better safeguard our planet, space technology and astronauts. Solar Orbiter will study the Sun, its outer atmosphere and what drives the constant outflow of solar wind which affects Earth. The spacecraft will observe the Sun's atmosphere up close with high spatial resolution telescopes and compare these observations to measurements taken in the environment directly surrounding the spacecraft – together creating a one-of-a-kind picture of how the Sun can affect the space environment throughout the solar system.
  • Parker Solar Probe
    Gallery
    Parker Solar Probe will swoop to within four million miles of the Sun's surface, facing heat and radiation like no spacecraft before it. Launching in 2018, Parker Solar Probe will provide new data on solar activity and make critical contributions to our ability to forecast major space-weather events that impact life on Earth.
  • Interface to Space (ICON & GOLD)
    Gallery
    The ionosphere is layer of the upper atmosphere (60-1000 km up) where the neutral atoms and molecules of the lower atmosphere transition to the plasma of space.
  • SDO
    Gallery
    The Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, is a geosynchronous-orbiting satellite designed to help us understand the Sun’s influence on Earth by studying the solar atmosphere. SDO’s goal is to understand, driving towards a predictive capability, the dynamic solar activity that drives conditions in near-Earth space, called space weather. SDO observations help us explain where the Sun's energy comes from, how the inside of the Sun works, and how the Sun’s atmosphere stores and releases energy in dramatic eruptions.

    Every twelve seconds, SDO images the Sun in ten wavelengths of ultraviolet light. Each wavelength reveals different solar features and is assigned a unique color. Every image is eight times the resolution of HD video. From dark coronal holes or bright active regions on the solar surface to immense eruptions and flares that lash out millions of miles above the surface, SDO looks far into the Sun’s blazing atmosphere.

  • THEMIS
    Gallery
    THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms) was launched in 2007 as five identical satellites for measuring the magnetic and plasma environment around Earth. After completing their prime mission, two THEMIS satellites were maneuvered into orbit around the Moon to study the lunar enviroment in a mission known as THEMIS-ARTEMIS.

Missions - Historical

Space Weather

Flares and CMEs and Auroras, Oh My!
  • Solar Wind
    List
    The steady outflow of particles from the solar surface.
  • Sunspots
    Gallery
    Large cooler regions on the solar photosphere where magnetic flux is concentrated.
  • Solar Flares
    Gallery
    Magnetic eruptions above the solar photosphere that emit x-rays and particles.
  • Coronal Mass Ejections
    List
    Large eruptions of particles from the Sun
  • Magnetosphere
    List
    The magnetic 'bubble' surrounding Earth, and some other planets.
  • Aurora
    Gallery
    The Northern & Southern lights, created by the interaction of the solar wind and Earth's magnetosphere with the atmosphere.
  • Space Weather Modeling
    Gallery

    Energetic events on the Sun can have dramatic impact on Earth and its magnetosphere. These natural events can have significant effects on Earth and space-based technologies that can cause anything from inconveniences (such as minor communications and power disruptions) to high-impact events that have significant political and economic implications (outages of large sections of the electrical power grid and other support infrastructure).

    To better meet these challenges, mathematical models of the heliospheric and geospace environment are under development to better forecast these solar energetic events and their impacts on Earth.

Solar Science

Studying the Sun itself.
  • The Dynamic Solar Magnetic Field
    2016.01.29
    While the sun is well known as the overwhelming source of visible light in our solar system, a substantial part of its influence is driven by some aspects less visible to human perception - the magnetic field.
  • The Solar Cycle
    Gallery
    Solar Cycle 25 has begun. The Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel announced solar minimum occurred in December 2019, marking the transition into a new solar cycle. In a press event, experts from the panel, NASA, and NOAA discussed the analysis and Solar Cycle 25 prediction, and how the rise to the next solar maximum and subsequent upswing in space weather will impact our lives and technology on Earth.

Heliosphere

That not-so-empty space between the solar corona and the boundary of interstellar space.

Magnetospheres

The magnetic fields of small and large bodies around the solar system alter the space plasma near that body.

Ionosphere, Thermosphere, Mesosphere (ITM)

Interesting physics occurs at the boundary layers between the electrically neutral atmospheres of planets and the plasma of space.

NASA Heliophysics Resources

We live in an exciting environment: the heliosphere, the exotic outer atmosphere of a star. The heliosphere is an immense magnetic bubble that extends well beyond the orbit of Pluto. This bubble contains our solar system, solar wind, and the entire solar magnetic field. The heliosphere is also the one part of the cosmos accessible to direct scientific investigation; our only hands-on astrophysical laboratory. As our society becomes ever more dependent on technology, we are increasingly susceptible to space weather disturbances in this tumultuous region. We call the study of the connections between the sun and the solar system, Heliophysics.'
  • Sounding Rockets
    Gallery
    For over 40 years, NASA's Sounding Rocket Program has provided critical scientific, technical, and educational contributions to the nation's space program and is one of the most robust, versatile, and cost-effective flight programs at NASA.
  • Mercury Transit May 2016
    Gallery
    On Monday, May 9, 2016, Mercury will transit across the sun. This rare event will begin at 7:11 AM EDT and will continue for more than seven hours. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory will watch this transit from start to finish, ultra high definition images of the event in near real time as it unfolds. This is the first time SDO has captured this transit, which hasn't occurred since 2006. It won't occur again until 2019. NASA Scientists use the transit method to learn more about planets both in our solar system and beyond. Scientists can monitor the brightness of stars, looking for dips in that brightness that signal a transiting planet. Using the transit method, scientists can determine the distance of these planets from their stars, as well as their size and composition. Upcoming missions like the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite will use the transit method to search for planets orbiting nearby stars.
  • 2012 Venus Transit
    Gallery
    This gallery contains visuals in support of the June 5, 2012 transit of Venus across the solar disk.
  • Heliophysics Fleet
    Gallery
    Orbits and trajectories of many missions observing the Sun and the near-Earth environment.
  • SDO Anniversary Series
    2017.06.02
    The sun is always changing and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory is always watching. Launched on Feb. 11, 2010, SDO keeps a 24-hour eye on the entire disk of the sun, with a prime view of the graceful dance of solar material coursing through the sun's atmosphere, the corona.
  • SDO 4k Slow-rotation Sun Resource Page
    2017.06.02
    SDO, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, images the entire sun at 4096x4096 resolution in multiple wavelengths every 12 seconds. The selection below represents some of the best options for full-disk slow rotation. The 4k content is available for download as frame sequences, and, in some cases, as ProRes video. These files are large and will take a long time to download.
  • Sun News
    Gallery
    Solar flares! CMEs! The Really Big Images from Solar Dynamics Observatory! Get them here!

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